Raymond Norville may have advertised himself as a handyman, but his most pronounced skill appears to be placing his hands in union tills. On February 16, Norville, a northern New Jersey contractor, was arrested at his home after being charged two days earlier in Newark, N.J. federal court with one count of embezzling at least $100,000 from the Newark-based International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1233. And that figure may be on the low side. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the alleged offenses. The arrest follows a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Labor-Management Standards, along with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
Prosecutors allege Norville, 42, a resident of Orange, N.J., near Newark, illegally pocketed funds disbursed by ILA Local 1233 intended for the renovation and repair of union headquarters in Newark. As proprietor of the Orange-based RLL Unique Homes Inc., he could be trusted – or so the union thought. According to the Complaint:
From in or about February 2007, through in or about June 2008, Raymond Norville did knowingly and willfully embezzle, steal and unlawfully convert to his own use, and the use of others, money and funds of Local 1233 of the International Longshoremen’s Association, a labor organization of which he was employed by causing the union to disburse funds to him by improperly invoicing the union for renovations to its office building that was the result of overbilling, using duplicate invoices and work not performed, totaling at least $100,000…
The alleged theft, “at least $100,000,” if anything, is an understatement. Based on the prosecution’s review of union financial records, during or about during the period February-December 2007 Norville submitted 33 invoices to the local totaling $324,221.94. They reflect payments made by the union during February 2007-April 2008 for tasks related to air conditioning units, electrical and plumbing systems, interior and exterior lighting, and interior and exterior walls. In addition, during January-June 2008, Norville prepared seven invoices to Local 1233 totaling $47,188 for renovations and repairs purportedly done to the union building. The Complaint states, “most, if not all, are for work already paid for, according to prior invoices.” The word “all” would be more accurate. “The double-billing,” states the complaint, “resulted in a loss to the union of approximately $47,188.” In other words, Norville likely ripped off the union by as much as around $370,000 through overbilling, double-billing and failure to perform promised work.
Unless viewed through the lens of a sweetheart deal, the union’s choice of Norville as a contractor is mystifying. He is not a licensed electrician or plumber in the State of New Jersey. And he had not obtained permits from the City of Newark to perform the work. Even when he performed tasks specified in the work order – which wasn’t that often – he didn’t do them well. Here’s an example of a building inspection cited by the Complaint:
On or about June 8, 2007, Norville prepared and submitted to Local 1233 an RLL invoice for $15,300. The invoice states: 1) “Change electric wiring from main electric panel”; and 2) “Sub panel going to another 3 phase wire panel and main panel.” The Inspector, first off, determined that the work, even if done properly, was significantly overvalued by approximately $7,000. The Inspector further noted that some of the electrical work actually performed was not done properly and, in fact, posed a safety hazard. He concluded that the union had been overbilled and that Norville was not entitled to the benefit of approximately $8,000 in added funds paid by the union.
ILA Local 1233 officials have yet to publicly comment on the case. It’s not as if they don’t have other scandals to worry about. Last September, one of its former secretary-treasurers, Gregory Taylor, was arrested for embezzling more than $100,000 from the local through various means, including credit card fraud and receipt of unauthorized paychecks. Trouble seems to follow this union.